Dustin Johnson will enter the second leg of the PGA Tour playoffs at TPC Boston this week atop the FedEx Cup standings on the heels of his dramatic playoff victory over Jordan Spieth last week.
But the real intrigue at the Dell Technologies Championship beginning on Friday lies way down in the standings, where players will be jockeying to rise into – or stay in – the Top 70 spots that qualify for the third playoff event in Chicago in two weeks. It’s made-for-TV drama, with every putt holding potential for a player to climb from elimination into the safety zone – or vice-versa.
Ninety-six players will tee it up at TPC Boston this week – four are not entered due to injury. The five most likely to rise into the Top 70:
5. Chris Stroud (No. 78 in the FedEx Cup): It has been an incredible month for Stroud, who won the Barracuda Championship the week before the PGA Championship to qualify for the year’s final major, and then posted a T-9 at the PGA to earn a cool $844,000 over a two-week span. That takes the sting out of a missed cut the following week at the Wyndham and a T-89 at the Northern Trust last week.
And that’s not even the most interesting story of Stroud’s past month. The Houston native’s property has been transformed into a shelter for victims of Hurricane Harvey, and he told Golf Digest’s Tim Rosaforte that his truck was being used to help evacuate the elderly from high-risk areas. Stroud has been unable to fly home to help friends and family, and anyone would understand if his mind isn’t fully on golf.
Stroud has used his platform to raise donations for hurricane victims, and we’re simply rooting for his incredible ride on the course to continue on to Chicago.
4. Bubba Watson/Adam Scott (Nos. 72/73): OK, we’re admittedly cheating the theme here a bit, but we’re lumping together two of the sports most prominent names over the past 10-plus years who are just outside of the Top 70.
Scott figured his PGA Tour season was over as he planned to skip the first two playoff events with his wife due to give birth. But the couple’s child came a little early – and healthy – and Scott is in Boston this week at the scene of his first career PGA Tour victory on a sponsor’s exemption in 2003.
Watson was ranked 113th just two weeks ago after declining to play at the Wyndham, and has admitted he’s taking a lengthy layoff from golf as soon as he’s eliminated from the playoffs. Way out of form pretty much all year and coming off a missed cut at the PGA, Watson finished T-10 at the Northern Trust to vault 41 spots. And he’s clearly playing without much stress on his mind, judging by his “batting practice” session at Fenway Park this week.
3. Jason Kokrak (No. 79): He’s not exactly a household name, but the big-hitting Kokrak is coming of a T-16 at the Wyndham and a T-25 at the Northern Trust. More to the point, he is the only golfer in the field this week who enters between Nos. 76-100 who posted a top 10 at TPC Boston last year. He was in a group that tied for eighth that included Johnson and Ryan Moore, who became a Ryder Cup hero a month later, and there is a lot to be said in golf for playing on a course that suits your eye. Kokrak enters in solid form, and shot rounds of 70-68-71-66 here last week.
2. Michael Kim (No. 100): No one faces longer odds this week than Kim, who was the final player into the field. The 24-year-old Seoul native doesn’t come into this week in particularly good form, with his best finish over his past four tournaments being a 64th at the Wyndham. He missed the cut after shooting a 79 in the second round of the Northern Trust. But, hey, he has a chip, a chair … and a tee time.
1. Harold Varner III (No. 91): Varner was just trying to keep his Tour card two weeks ago. Outside of the Top 125 with one tournament to go before the playoffs, he posted a 10th-place finish at the Wyndham to squeak into the Northern Trust at No. 123. He then finished T-20 last week to vault up to No. 91.
Varner will need another strong week to keep his season alive, but he is already just the fifth player in FedEx Cup history to qualify for the second leg of the playoffs after being outside of the Top 125 entering the Wyndham. Only Ernie Els continued the run all the way to the BMW Championship.